The FTSE 100 Index narrowly missed setting a new 30-month high today before falling back towards its opening mark.
The first session after the holiday break witnessed an initial boost for the Footsie as traders factored in strong performances from markets in Europe and the United States earlier in the week.
At one point the top flight stood 21.4 points stronger at 4819.5 – the high for the year is 4823.8 – but later retreated to reach mid-morning just 0.5 points higher at 4798.6.
Among individual sectors, insurers held firm despite concerns over the financial impact of the Asian tsunami disaster.
Shares in Prudential – up half a penny at 449.25p – were unaffected as it said it expected the impact on its Asian business to be “minimal”. Aviva, which makes around 8% of its profits in the region, fell 3p to 625p.
FTSE 250 Index tour operator First Choice was 2% lower – down 3.75p at 150.75p - after it outlined the situation regarding its businesses in South East Asia. The company had nearly 1,200 customers in the areas affected by the tidal waves, but added there was unlikely to be a material impact on its finances.
In other news, support services group Jarvis surged 49% or 8.75p to 26.75p as half-year losses of £283m (€399m) appeared to draw a line under the group’s recent difficulties. With analysts relieved that the results contained no more nasty surprises, attention turned to the group’s brighter prospects.
And Durex-to-Scholl group SSL attracted buying interest after a report said a business consultancy had been carrying out due diligence on behalf of an unnamed client. Shares surged 6% or 17p to 296p.
Back in the top flight, blue-chip pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca lost hold of an earlier gain achieved after it secured approval for its anti-cholesterol drug Crestor in Japan. Shares were later 2p lower at 1868p.